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NXTWatch: NXTChicago U15 Takes Championship at Lacrosse State Fair

Elizabethtown (Ky.) will forever have a soft spot in NXTChicago's heart.

NXTeventsLacrosse State Fair, the final NXTevent of the summer, is held in Elizabethtown, but will now be known as the place of the first NXTChicago championship after the NXTChicago U15 team went a perfect 6-0 over the weekend. Buoyed by a balanced offense and a stifling defense backed by goalie Nick Deckard, NXTChicago fended off the competition and knocked off Titanium Columbus White 2019, 6-3, in the title game. 

“Nick was a game changer this weekend," club director Kyle McGuire said. "Aside from seeing the ball well, he is a force to be reckoned with in the clearing game. His speed and composure were very impressive while clearing the ball this weekend. He does a good job of getting the ball up and out after a save, but he can also run the ball up field and start the transition game by himself. We're excited to have such a young and promising goalie in the club."

NXTChicago's defense put on a suffocating display, ceding a mere five goals in four pool play games to help the team outscore opponents 47-5. The team only allowed 10 goals all tournament, a testament to its ability to come together. 

“We played great, stingy team defense," defensive coordinator Drew Haig said. "As a whole, the boys played to their strengths. David Bendis is a dominating, physical defenseman. We did a good job of recognizing situations that we could take advantage of that. Lucas Honer showed confidence and was active, even while playing at the long stick position, which he doesn't do often. Ground balls came up black all weekend and Joshua Lenczewski at the LSM position proved that he can not only play defense, but also push the ball smartly in transition. He had a great tournament, especially on the ground balls."

The offense also put on a show, though. The ball moved around with precision and it was NXTChicago's best offensive production of the summer.

"We’ve come from having a good offense to playing offense well. There's an important distinction there," offensive coordinator Colin Ambler said. "We’ve done a pretty good job scoring this summer, but now we are moving the ball fast and getting the right looks at the cage. Our transition has always been a strength, but now our 6v6 game has taken shape as well. We dodged hard and got the ball to the back side for a re-dodge. We did a good job respecting defense, and not settling for shots."

The Lacrosse State Fair concluded the summer for the NXTChicago U15 team and marked an excellent culmination of the hard work put into this summer. The U15 guys now have the opportunity to check out the NXTChicago office when they come in for their end of the year player meetings. The team will also meet one final time at the end-of-the-year party Thursday night at the Rosemont Dome practice facility, where players and families can celebrate a great summer and recognize accolades.

Interested in joining NXTChicago? Click here for the fall tryout information!

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NXTWatch: NXTChicago Invades Pipe City

The Pipe City tournament made history for NXTChicago

The event marked the first time that all three NXTChicago teams went to the same event, giving them a chance to chase championships together. 

2017 / 2018

The 2017/2018 team, coached by NXTChicago club director Kyle McGuire took great strides in their team game on both sides of the ball.

“Our guys played a very sound defensive game. They played excellent team defense and the midfielders really took ownership of playing great short stick defense, an area this team was lacking earlier in the season," McGuire said. Close defender Joey Hansen (St. Ignatius College Prep, 2017) anchored the defense and even chipped in on the offensive side of the ball, finishing the weekend with two goals and an assist as he made his debut on the man-up.

"I thought we played really well. Our offense possessed the ball better. Our attack unit really meshed well and they were fun to watch from the defensive end," McGuire said. "We are still a work in progress, but we’ve come a long way since the start of summer, and continue to grow as a group."

The offensive side of the ball was dominated by the likes of Will Schultz (Evanston Township), the big lefty attackman with a nose for the goal. Although Schultz led the charge, the weekend marked an opportunity for NXTChicago to showcase its offensive depth. 

Offensive coordinater Ryan Ambler added, “Our attack unit possessed, moved the ball quickly and worked hard off ball, creating extra opportunities. They dominated time of possession and the players started to really click on the offensive side of the ball."

The 2017/2018 team will play their final team event next weekend as they head to the University School of Milwaukee for the CST event before the 2018 players head to Showcase Lacrosse's Boys Philly Showcase Camp at Saint Joseph's University

U15

The U15 team also had a great weekend, finishing 3-2 and losing in OT in the semifinals of the Gold Division. A Sunday morning victory against New Wave secured a spot in the semi-finals, and the NXTChicago squad fought hard all the way to the end. Trailing late in the semifinals, the U15s orchestrated a comeback with two huge man-down faceoff goals. Following a big stop on defense and a quick clear, NXT peppered the cage twice, then with three ticks on the clock, still had the poise to not jam a prayer of a shot. Instead, Ian Venard looked through the chaos to connect on an unselfish pass to wide-open Max Fuedo on the doorstep for a chance to win at the buzzer!  Unfortunately, the shot hit the pipe, and the buzzer went off before NXT could put in the rebound. Minutes later, Burning River put the game away on a man-up opportunity in overtime. 

“It was unfortunate, but to be honest, the end result wasn't so much what was important as much as the fight that our guys showed," U15 head coach Colin Ambler said. "The toughness, resilience and will-to-win was incredible. Coach (Drew) Haig and (JeffPfeffer and I were riding the wave of excitement all afternoon. We struggled to end our post-tournament conversation, talking about every player, in every situation of every game. It was a big moment to watch the progression of the team and individuals throughout the summer."

Both Joey Cornell and Nick Deckard stood strong between the pipes all weekend, while Max Feudo continued to play with poise and confidence on attack.  The U15s resume action for the final time this summer at NXTevents' Lacrosse State Fair in Kentucky.

U11

Finally, the NXTChicago U11s played hard this weekend, and despite their record, took some strides to success.  With the help of a few supplemental players in Frankie Szwedo, Cooper Ade, Brady Moffit, Braeden and Jack Carlin, Tommy MacPherson, Tommy Kirkwood and Nick Curley, the U11s battled throughout the weekend. Curley, playing goalie for only the fourth time, stood on his head all day Saturday to help keep the score down and keep the U11s in the morning games against two very competitive teams.

"Colin Owens made the move to a long stick and played unbelievable at close defense. He was a vacuum on ground balls, knocked down passes and helped out tremendously in the clearing game,” U11 head coach Packy Dollard said. 

Wil Guzaldo was also dominant at the faceoff X, winning against whomever the opponents threw at him.

Pipe City wrapped up the summer for the NXTChicago U11 group and showcased the team's overall improvement throughout the summer. 

"There are some very talented kids on the team, but more importantly they are all great kids off the field and were a pleasure to coach,” Dollard said. 

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NXT Girls Club Begins

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NXT Girls Announces Hire of Kate Henwood

NXTsports is excited to announce the hire of former University of California-Davis women’s lacrosse head coach Kate Henwood as its Director of Girls Lacrosse. In her new position, Henwood will be tasked with developing educational curriculums for girls lacrosse and managing all aspects of the NXTgirls Lacrosse Club. She will also consult with NXT’s events division on the development of elite lacrosse events for girls.

Tryouts for the inaugural NXTgirls Lacrosse Club will be Saturday and Sunday, August 29-30 at the Proving Grounds in Conshohocken. 2020s and 2021s will try out from 1-2:30 p.m., while 2022s will try out from 2:30-4 p.m. Click here for full information.

A Garnet Valley (Pa.) and La Salle alumna, Kate is best-known locally for coaching the 2011-12 Garnet Valley girls lacerosse team to the first two state titles in program history. Kate’s tenure at Garnet Valley produced an overall record of 54-14, multiple All-Americans, and laid the foundation for what has become Pennsylvania’s premier program. Her final Jaguars squad finished 2012 ranked fifth in the nation according to LaxPower.

"I couldn’t be more thrilled to join the NXT team,” Henwood said. “I possess a unique perspective of many  levels of women’s lacrosse and I decided that running girls’ club and educational programing while working with school-aged players in the Philadelphia area is where my heart is. After witnessing the exceptional programming NXT has delivered on the boys’ side, I can think of no better way to make an immediate splash with a top-notch girls’ program than to partner with such an exciting company.” 

NXT first tried to hire Henwood as its Director of Girls Lacrosse in the summer of 2012, but during those discussions UC-Davis came calling and a surprise offer to become a Division I head coach was understandably too tempting to pass up. NXT stayed in touch throughout Henwood’s time in California, and both sides were finally ready to make the move.

“Kate Henwood has been on our radar for a long time as somebody that we wanted to work with,” NXT Lacrosse Club Director Marty Kupprion said. “She is a game-changing addition for NXTsports. Kate’s ability to teach and coach the game and her vibrant personality is going to change the girls lacrosse landscape in the Philadelphia region. I couldn’t be more excited to work to help her launch industry-leading educational programs.”

Henwood coached the UC-Davis Aggies for three seasons after winning back-to-back state championships at Garnet Valley. In her initial season at UC-Davis, she led the Aggies to an upset of nationally-ranked rival Stanford, which earned U.S. Lacrosse Magazine’s Best Upset of 2013 award. The average team GPA rose from 2.60 to 3.15 during Henwood’s tenure. Prior to taking over at Garnet Valley, Henwood was the top assistant and defensive coordinator at Villanova University.

A full set of details regarding NXT’s upcoming girls programs will be released soon. Kate can be reached at kate.henwood@nxtsports.com

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NXTperspectives: Peter Lawrence Sees Similar Potential for NXTChicago growth as in Philadelphia

NXTChicago’s summer is at the midway point heading into the Fourth of July weekend. With the holiday weekend on the horizon, I thought this would be the perfect time to reflect on the first half of our summer, and the NXTChicago branch of NXTsports. The summer has been nonstop lacrosse; MVP Illinois, Boys Philly Showcase Camp for 2016s and 2017s, Trashcan Lacrosse camp at St. Ignatius College Prep, a trip back east for MVP Towson, Trashcan camp at Episcopal Academy with the Philadelphia NXTers, Philly Showcase Camp for 2018s and 2019s and finally concluded with NXTChicago’s final summer Trashcan camp in Naperville (Ill.). It's a hectic schedule, but summer months like this have become status quo here at NXTsports. I also had the opportunity to spend a good chunk of this month alongside NXT co-founder Peter Lawrence.

Coach Lawrence traveled out to the Midwest for both MVP Illinois and Trashcan camp in Naperville. As the founder of Trashcan Lacrosse, there's no better teacher to impart wisdom to campers than Coach Law. His coaching methods are tried and true and show what it really means to Play Fast. After the last day of camp, I sat down with Coach Law to pick his brain more of the history of NXT, and what similarities he sees between the origins of the Philadelphia office, and the budding Chicago branch.

“One of the biggest differentiators that NXT prides itself on is teaching," Lawrence said. "Everyone likes to say they love the run-and-gun style of lacrosse, but a lot more goes into playing fast than people realize. To play fast, you first have to talk fast, move fast, and think fast. When you are truly playing fast, there are only two positions: goalie and everyone else. In the game of lacrosse, all players must be able to transition from offense to defense and communicate effectively witj their teammates. To do that, you must train your mind and body to play fast."

Coach Lawrence is known for teaching in 3s. He explained that this is a tactic he has picked up throughout his coaching career. “Anything more can be overwhelming for players. Anything less can be a bit underwhelming."

With this in mind, Coach Law emphasized the three Ss of transition lacrosse: Score, Skip, Single. This is a constant theme in Trashcan camp and the game of lacrosse. Every time a player gets a touch, he needs to go through this checklist: is it a shot, a skip pass, or the single easy pass in his face that leads to success? To truly play fast, players need this in their arsenal.

Coach Law also noticed several similarities between NXT's offices in Philadelphia and Chicago.

“The greatest parallel that I’ve found is the personnel involved in both regions.  When we started off, we had the likes of Marty Kupprion, Brett Manney, and of course Andy Hayes," Lawrence said. "Our coaches are passionate and that resonates with players and parents alike. I was really impressed  to see all of the coaches covered in sweat at the end of NXTChicago’s club practice. From Jeff Pfeffer, to Ryan Ambler: it is not just the full time guys like Drew Haig and Packy Dollard that make us successful. All of the coaches have bought into playing fast and refuse to simply go through the motions. It isn’t easy to do a full day camp, and then club practice a night. Like I always say though, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it."

It is always a special treat for the NXT families when a Division I coach is in town to join us at camp and club practice. Coach Lawrence finished his trip with a Q&A sessions with all of our club families after practice. After answering recruiting questions, what it is like to be a Division I coach, and his playing background, Coach Lawrence had some praise to hand out to our players as well.

“The lacrosse culture is different than other sports, and it is evident here as well as anywhere else I’ve been," Lawrence said. "It starts with respect for the game. Coaching is a two-way street. When you have respectful kids that want to learn, it makes it easier for our coaches to be excited, jump into drills, and end practice as drenched in sweat as any of the players. Hard work is not unique to the lacrosse world or NXT. However, it is a staple of our company, and we work hard to win the day, every day. There is a reason our Philadelphia office is located in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, less than a mile from Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field and the Wells Fargo Center, and our Chicago office is a block from Wrigley Field in Lakeview. We are passionate and professional sports enthusiasts. Experiencing NXTChicago for a couple of weeks this summer first-hand reminded me of the early days of NXT in Philadelphia, and I see all of the ingredients for success”.

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